The success and failure of potentially overworked goalies

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martinbrodeur2.jpgAbout a week ago I was struck with an idea to investigate how goalies who had a heavy workload during the regular season fared in the playoffs. After all, with the new trend going towards inexpensive goalies, it’s worth taking a look at goalies in general seeing as how those inexpensive goalies that have been successful of late in the NHL all had reasonably light workloads during the regular season. It seemed like a great idea to see if there was any correlation in recent NHL history or if this was truly an aberration year.

In a show of proof that in the Internet writing world you have to move fast lest you get beaten to the punch, Dustin Berfiend at SBN’s Mile High Hockey broke down how goalies that have played 80% or more of their teams games have done since the lockout.  The findings might startle you a bit if you’re a fan of goalies that start a ton of games for your team during the year.

Every season there is a debate about whether it’s smart to have a workhorse goalie. Some of the best goaltenders in the league (Martin Brodeur, Miikka Kiprusoff, Evgeni Nabokov, Henrik Lundqvist, etc.) routinely start upwards of 70 games a year. Most of these teams are fairly successful (even the Rangers have made it to the playoffs every season except last since the lockout) but none of those goalies have won a Cup since the lockout. In fact, none of them have even been in a Stanley Cup final.

While we’re sure that fans of these teams and goalies were already aware of the lack of Stanley Cup victories, these findings lend themselves to the growing belief that overpaying for goaltending is a colossal waste of valuable cap space.

What Berfiend discovered is that 39 times since the lockout have goalies played in 80% or more of their team’s games. Of those 39 times, 14 of those teams missed the playoffs completely (35.8%) and 13 others were bounced out in the first round of the playoffs (33.3%). That’s 27 out of 39 (69%) of those workhorse goalies failing to get their teams even a slight modicum of success. If you’re willing to hang your hat on a team making the playoffs and calling that a great season then that’s your prerogative, but your team isn’t winning the Stanley Cup, at least not in this era.

What was most startling to read was how little regular season work goalies who played in the Stanley Cup finals got. Berfiend got that research done as well.

2005-2006: Dwayne Roloson started 42 games while Cam Ward started just 25 regular season games.

2006-2007: Ray Emery started 56 games while Jean-Sebastian Giguere started 53.

2007-2008: Chris Osgood started in 40 games while Marc-Andre Fleury started in 33.

2008-2009: Same two goalies, slightly different workload. Osgood started 44 while Fleury started in 61.

2009-2010: Antti Niemi started 35 games for Chicago while Michael Leighton started in 31 for Philly.

Out of all those, the goalie who saw the most work in his teams respective Finals appearance also managed to win the Stanley Cup (Fleury). A goalie getting worn down as the season goes along is nothing new and is something that should be counted upon, but overworking a goalie to keep your team alive throughout the regular season is something coaches should be keeping a better eye on. While having a great goalie like Roberto Luongo or Martin Brodeur does wonders for your team all throughout the year, keeping them fresh for when the games matter the most has to be vital to what any coach and any team that wants to win the Stanley Cup.

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.